After earlier loss, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud on the rise in Week 6 QB rankings

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USA TODAY 13 October, 2021 - 08:50am 3 views

Here are five things to look for ahead of the game on Saturday, Oct. 16:

Missouri has one of the top-ranked offenses in the nation with redshirt sophomore quarterback Connor Bazelak leading the way. Bazelak ranks fourth in the SEC in total yards passing with 1,682 yards and a 67 percent completion rate in the past six games.

The Tigers’ ground game seems to be even scarier with senior running back Tyler Badie taking most of the carries. He currently is second in the SEC in rushing yards with 675 on 104 carries. Last week against North Texas, Badie ran for 217 yards, accompanied by three total touchdowns for the Tigers.

“[Badie] is probably the least talked about great player in the country,” Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “He is really competing hard and we really need him.”

A&M defeated then-No. 1 Alabama after two rough losses weeks prior to the matchup. The Aggies have lost their past two matchups against Missouri as well, both by a seven-point margin.

Missouri was ranked fifth when it defeated the Aggies back in 2013 and was unranked when it beat No. 24 Aggies on its home turf in their last matchup. The Aggies’ last win against the Tigers was a 59-29 triumph at Kyle Field in 2012 with Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel at quarterback.

Sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada improved significantly in his last matchup against one of the top-ranked defenses in the country. Calzada’s completion percentage increased by 7.7 percentage points from the week prior, and he threw for 150 more yards in the 41-38 win against Alabama. His quarterback ranking and passer rating in the last game are the highest they’ve been this season, at 90 and 170.5, respectively.

A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said Calzada has done something each week to help the Aggies and to enhance his ability at quarterback.

“He is a high-character young man,” Fisher said. “He has gotten better each week he’s played, and he is learning how to play the position at quarterback.”

A&M’s last away game featured an 18-yard pass from Calzada to junior running back Isaiah Spiller for the Cuban Missile’s first collegiate touchdown and win at quarterback.

The Aggies will be going head-to-head this Saturday against Drinkwitz’s Tigers, who are currently 3-1 at home this season. The Aggies are currently 1-0 in away games and look to obtain their second conference win of the season and their second win on the road as they travel to Columbia, Mo., later in the week.

After coming up with zero turnovers the last two weeks, A&M’s defense found its footing after forcing two turnovers against the Crimson Tide. Coming up with turnovers will be necessary for the maroon and white as they go up against one of the top offenses in the SEC.

The Tigers’ offense averages 37.8 points per game, 297 passing yards per game and 187 yards rushing per game. Missouri has thrown seven interceptions the past six games; however, the team has yet to fumble the ball once this season.

Similar to A&M, Missouri’s defense has been struggling the past few weeks and will have something to prove in this upcoming matchup, sophomore defensive back Antonio Johnson said.

“They have a chip on their shoulder this week just how we did last week,” Johnson said. “We have to go into this week as focused as we were going into this last week.”

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Getting Demoted Was Hard to Accept, But Kerry Coombs Plans On “Fighting and Battling and Scratching and Claw

Eleven Warriors 13 October, 2021 - 12:17pm

Kerry Coombs has always been known for his boundless energy throughout his two tenures at Ohio State, but that has never been more evident in a press conference setting than it was during his first media availability in a full month on Tuesday.

Coombs met with reporters on Tuesday for the first time since Ryan Day opted to reassign defensive play-calling responsibilities to Matt Barnes, and he acknowledged that the last month has not been easy for him, as he’s had to accept no longer being in charge of the defense he was hired to coordinate less than two years ago.

What he also made clear, though, was his commitment to doing his job and helping Ohio State’s defense succeed has not wavered. 

Speaking with the same passion that’s made him an elite recruiter and beloved assistant coach for most of his Ohio State tenure, and exuding far more energy than the last time he spoke publicly following the Buckeyes’ 35-28 loss to Oregon in their second game of the season, Coombs was adamant he’s still doing everything he can – and will do so for the rest of the year – to try to help the Buckeyes win every game they play.

“This has been the hardest stretch of my professional career, which I would tell you means I’ve had a really good career, because if this is the hardest stretch, then life’s not gonna be too bad,” Coombs said. “The handling of it is a work in progress, but I would also tell you this, that in my opinion, handling it in a different fashion – picking up your ball and going home, kicking the can down the road, quitting, packing your stuff up, being a miserable human being – if I had done those things, that would make me a liar to every one of those young men that I coached along the way that had tough times.

“So if you’re here for the other men on this team, the other coaches and the other players on this team, if that’s truly what you believe, then you’re here with them come heck or highwater. And you’re here fighting and struggling and scrapping. And I love those kids. I love those kids in that locker room, I love those kids on this team. I love the men I work with and I love Ohio State. And I’m gonna be here. I’m gonna be fighting and battling and scratching and clawing for the remainder of the season to help us win every freaking Saturday. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

Coombs said multiple times Tuesday that he remains confident in his ability to coordinate a defense, and whether Coombs will be back with the Buckeyes in any role next season seems uncertain at best, as it’s unlikely he will get play-calling responsibilities back.

For right now, however, Coombs says he’s not thinking about that. He still holds the title of defensive coordinator and he’s still being paid the $1.4 million salary that comes with that title, and he’s still committed to doing his job to the best of his ability.

“Whether or not I like everything or how everything went, that’s got nothing to do with it. It’s gotta do with you got a job to do,” Coombs said. “And hopefully some day down the road, some young man who had trouble, who faces trouble or adversity can remember an example of a man who tried to lead with positive energy in the midst of adversity. And if I can do that, then I will have accomplished my goal. As long as we are continuing to progress and win on Saturday afternoons.”

Although Coombs was disappointed Day decided to effectively demote him, and that the change played out in the public eye, he didn’t allow himself much time to sulk, nor did he want Ohio State’s players or other coaches to see that he was hurting.

“I’ll tell you the same thing I tell the kids when they have a tough day or an injury, it’s OK to be sad. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Coombs said. “But that can’t last. That’s a 24-hour window. You gotta pick yourself up, you dust yourself off and you go back to work. And that’s what life is. That’s true for all of us. So be sad for a day. I’m not gonna tell you I was kicking my heels and jumping up for joy. I’m not. That would be a lie. It would be disingenuous. But I’m gonna tell you that I made a conscious decision every day, and even that day, to make sure that I wasn’t gonna paint that picture for everybody else. Your guts can be turning inside out and upside down, but you don’t have to show that to everybody else. Because to me, that’s just asking for sympathy.”

”I’m gonna be fighting and battling and scratching and clawing for the remainder of the season to help us win every freaking Saturday. That’s what I’m gonna do.”– Kerry Coombs on accepting his new role

Ultimately, Coombs recognizes Day made the decision he thought would give the Buckeyes the best chance to win games – a decision he understands from his own background as a head coach at the high school level. So the last thing Coombs wants to do is anything that would stand in the way of Ohio State winning games.

“Do I have respect for Ryan Day? Absolutely. Do I have respect for the university? Absolutely. Do I have respect for how difficult that process was? I do. Do I wish everything wasn’t so public? Yeah, I do,” Coombs said. “I’m gonna be honest with you, it’s hard. It’s hard for your family, it’s hard for these kids, it’s hard. That part is really hard.

“But we can control how we respond to those tough and difficult situations, and Ryan responded in a way that Ryan believed was best for the Ohio State Buckeyes. And that is absolutely, 100 percent, the head coach’s prerogative. And I’ve been in that job, and I know that. And so I understand it. And when you’re a part of the team, whether everything’s going the way you want it to go or not, you’re still a part of that team.

“We’ve all got choices. You can quit … I’ve had a lot of kids that come in and knock on that door and that’s what they’re thinking, especially in the world of transfer portals and all those kinds of things. If you’re gonna look a kid in the eye and say, ‘Hey man, you gotta hang in there. You’re a part of this team, you’re a part of this brotherhood, you need to fight, you need to scratch, you need to claw. Things are gonna get better. You keep working, you keep struggling, you keep knocking on that door, it’s gonna open someday,’ you can’t do that and then turn around and walk out and say, ‘Well, that doesn’t apply to me.’ That just makes you a liar.”

RELATED Ryan Day Says Ohio State Must Continue to Improve Entering Second Half of Season: “We Haven’t Done Anything Yet”

While Coombs is no longer calling the defensive plays, he has taken on some new responsibilities in game planning and is serving as the defensive coaching staff’s eye in the sky from the press box during games. He believes that’s enhanced his ability to see the game and to communicate with the rest of the defensive coaching staff – though he does miss being able to interact directly with the players on the sideline during games.

“I miss hugging people. I’ve got (offensive coordinator) Kevin Wilson now, and I’ve gotta be honest with you, it’s not the same,” Coombs joked. “So that part, that’s real. I miss that desperately, being on the sideline. But that’s selfish, too. And so having the opportunity to go up there, which was my idea by the way, and be able to see it and I think really, really see it and get a feel for the game has been very helpful.”

In recognition of the commitment Coombs has continued to demonstrate over the past four weeks, in which Ohio State’s defense has played significantly better than it did in the first two games of the season, Ryan Day awarded Coombs the game ball from Saturday’s 66-17 win over Maryland. Day has been impressed with the selflessness Coombs has shown in accepting his new role, which he believes has set a great example for the Buckeyes.

“I’ve just got a lot of respect for the way that whole defensive staff has handled this last month, but in particular Kerry,” Day said. “It takes special people who understand what this place is and what Ohio State means, and you don’t act that selflessly without really loving Ohio State and loving Buckeye Nation and these kids, so when you see something like that, you gotta call it out for what it is, and I think it’s a great lesson for all of our players.”

Coombs, however, said he felt “undeserving” of the honor, believing the credit for the defense’s improvement belongs to the players.

“We had a lot of kids who played their butts off and played in a great environment, in a Big Ten game and a lot of young kids that are starting to grow up and come of age,” Coombs said. “I love those kids, and I’m gonna fight for them. And that’s what we’re doing.”

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3 Players the Cowboys Should Target at the 2021 NFL Trade Deadline

The Columbus Dispatch 13 October, 2021 - 08:00am

Through five weeks of the season, the Dallas Cowboys are Super Bowl contenders. Any notion to the contrary is ignoring how the team has played through the first five weeks of the season. 

After dropping the season opener to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cowboys have ripped off four wins in a row. The level of competition may be questionable, but the level of execution the Cowboys have had—especially on offense—is not. 

They have put up at least 36 points in each of the last three games and are also the only team to beat the Los Angeles Chargers thus far. 

Still, no roster is perfect, and the Cowboys have areas where reinforcements would help. With legitimate Super Bowl aspirations comes the added pressure to make some moves down the stretch that could be the difference come playoff time. 

With a roster that is set up to compete, the Cowboys should be buyers when the NFL trade deadline approaches. Here's a look at three players Jerry Jones should at least inquire about as the season progresses. 

This would be an aggressive move, but one that could pay big dividends. 

The Cowboys' secondary remains one of the biggest obstacles to reaching their potential. Through five games, Dallas is allowing 7.9 yards per passing attempt, which is tied for 20th in the league. 

Trevon Diggs is one of the few reasons the unit isn't bad, but the play of the safeties and corners outside of Diggs leaves a lot to be desired. 

Adding Marcus Maye to the fold could help. Maye has only played in three games for the Jets this season but has allowed no touchdowns and a passer rating of 83.3 when targeted. 

Adding the safety could be complicated, though. It would be a tight squeeze financially. Maye would be owed around $6 million if traded near the deadline, and the team is closer to dealing him because of a DUI charge that could have him facing a suspension from the league, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. 

The Cowboys have been aggressive in addressing their safety issues, bringing in Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker and Damontae Kazee. Yet, it's still a position that could be improved, and Maye would fit that bill. 

It isn't just the safeties that could use an infusion of new talent. Outside of Diggs, the cornerback play has been rough for Dallas. 

While Diggs is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 28.4 passer rating, Anthony Brown has given up two touchdowns and a passer rating of 92.4. Jourdan Lewis hasn't been much better in the slot, giving up a rating of 107.2

The options on the bench aren't inspiring either. Maurice Canady has given up a touchdown and 55 yards on just three targets after a phenomenal preseason. Nahshon Wright was drafted as a project. Putting him out on the field this early could hinder his development and confidence. 

Instead, the Cowboys might want to turn to the trade market to find a veteran. 

Depending on how the next few weeks go in Pittsburgh, the Steelers could be sellers come deadline time. They are 2-3 and in last place in the AFC North. 

That may make them willing to part with an expensive veteran like Joe Haden. The 32-year-old is in the final year of his contract, and Pittsburgh will have more pressing needs to re-sign in free agency next season. 

He has allowed a passer rating of 75.9 or less in each of the last three full seasons. His veteran leadership and experience could be the boost the secondary needs. 

Osa Odighizuwa has accounted for two sacks this season. The rest of the Cowboys' defensive tackles have combined for none. Brent Urban has two pressures on the year. 

The interior of the defensive line isn't anchoring a nasty run defense either. They are giving up 4.2 yards per carry, which puts them 14th in the league. 

Rescuing Michael Brockers from the depths of Detroit Lions football could be a move that helps them in both regards. The Rams sent the 31-year-old to Detroit this offseason and, much like the rest of the team, he hasn't had great production.

In 2020, Brockers had five sacks, five tackles for a loss and 51 combined tackles. So far this season, he has one sack and two tackles for a loss. 

A lot of that could be a product of playing on a bad team that hasn't put up much fight since the season started. 

The Lions should be looking to sell come deadline time, and they could have just the right player for the Cowboys. 

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